Invitation to MOOC with Me

I wanted to let you know that, together with two colleagues, we’re offering a free six-week course on the Canvas Network. This is just one of the platforms offering what has come to be referred to as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

The title of the course is General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior (click for the description). As you may or may not remember, I taught General Semantics at TCU in Fort Worth from 2005-2008 in the Schieffer School of Journalism.

My collaborators are Mary Lahman, Ph.D. (communication studies), at Manchester University in Indiana, and Greg Thompson, Ph.D. (cultural anthropology) at BYU. This course is based on a course that Mary has taught at Manchester since the mid-90s called Language and Thought. Manchester University has agreed to sponsor the course on Canvas Network. Mary and I will each lead the class for two weeks, Greg for one, and we’ll all share duties for the last week.

The course begins January 13th. Right now our enrollment is at 531 and we’re projecting to have at least 700. Judging by the top-level domains in the registrants’ email addresses, we have at least 22 countries represented.

Here are some reasons you might be interested in registering for the course:

  1. To experience the capabilities (and limitations) of a Canvas Network online course, especially if you’re involved with education. And really, who isn’t these days?
  2. To interact with other adult learners from around the world, most of whom, according to the published statistics, have at least associates or bachelors degrees.
  3. To see first-hand what a MOOC is like and get a feel for its advantages and disadvantages.
  4. Last but not least, learn something about General Semantics (which, btw, is not the same as semantics).

If you’re interested, or if you know anyone who may want to check it out, our course description and registration is at https://www.canvas.net/courses/general-semantics-an-approach-to-effective-language-behavior. It’s completely free, no obligations, and you can do as much or as little of the work as you want. So if you just want to sign-up and lurk, that’s fine. If we can’t keep you interested in the content, shame on us.

🙂

mooc-registration-blog

Open Registration for MOOC

I’m pleased to announce I will be team-teaching my first Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC). This type of free online course provides an alternative means to deliver and experience educational offerings to anyone in the world with access to the Internet.

MOOC-flyer-150The course is titled General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior, based on a Communication Studies course that Mary Lahman, Ph.D., has taught at Manchester University in Indiana for fifteen years. Greg Thompson, Ph.D. and visiting anthropology professor at BYU, rounds out our teaching team. So participants will benefit from three different perspectives about General Semantics.

Registration is now open for the six-week class that begins 13 January 2014. There is no fee for registration or materials – it’s completely free, offered through the Canvas Network. Here’s the description:

This course provides an introduction to general semantics—the study of how we transform our life experiences into language and thought. Students will learn how their language habits and behaviors, as well as how they think about and share experiences, are what make them uniquely human. In other words, students will discover the critical, but sometimes subtle distinctions between what happens in their lives and how they talk about what happens.

The course will include readings from a wide array of disciplines, such as communication studies, neuroscience, and cultural anthropology. It will also include visual and auditory demonstrations through music and social media, and collaborative interactions with fellow learners. These types of learning experiences allow students to not only learn about more effective language behaviors, but also practice those new behaviors in order to communicate more effectively and appropriately in interpersonal and organizational contexts.

To enroll, simply click the blue ENROLL button on this page.

The course content is organized into weekly modules. Participants can work at their own pace and sequence, with activities and exercises arranged to facilitate learning.

This is a great opportunity to try something new, both in terms of the subject matter and educational format. After five days of open registration it looks like we have participants signed up from four continents. Feel free to enroll and participate as much, or as little, as you wish. We’ll all learn something together, although those “somethings” may be quite different.

Below is an information sheet about the course. Please consider sharing with your social media networks or with anyone who might be interested in learning something like General Semantics in an international virtual classroom. Download the pdf.

MOOC information sheet

Come MOOC with Me

Map Not Territory

Starting January 13, 2014, a free online course in general semantics will be offered on Canvas Network. Canvas is a leading platform for delivering massive open online courses (MOOCs).

General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior

The six-week course is based on a for-credit course offered by Manchester University (Indiana), taught by Mary Lahman, Ph.D., Professor of Communication Studies at Manchester, Greg Thompson, Ph.D., Brigham Young University, and Steve Stockdale, former executive director for the Institute of General Semantics.

The course provides an introduction to General Semantics—the study of how we transform our life experiences into language and thought. Students will learn how language habits and behaviors, how they think about and share experiences, are what make them uniquely human. In other words, students will discover the critical, but sometimes subtle, distinctions between what happens in their lives and how they talk about what happens.

This course has been designed specifically for the unique online environment enabled by Canvas Network. The interdisciplinary course will include material from communication studies, neuroscience, and cultural anthropology, in addition to visual and auditory demonstrations, music and social media, and collaborative interactions with fellow learners. These types of learning experiences allow students to not only learn about more effective language behaviors, but also practice those new behaviors in order to communicate more effectively and appropriately in interpersonal and organizational contexts.

The course will be conducted in English and is available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. There is no cost to enroll and no cost for materials. Registration begins December 1, 2013, at www.canvas.net.

Instructors

Mary LahmanMary Lahman is Professor of Communication Studies at Manchester University (Indiana). She is a 1983 graduate of Manchester University and holds advanced degrees from Miami University of Ohio and Indiana University. She incorporates service-learning and appreciative inquiry into her teaching of intercultural communication, public relations, and general semantics. Other research interests include the use of online discussions to build critical thinking skills and student engagement.

Gred ThompsonGreg Thompson received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of Comparative Human Development. He served for two years as the Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and remains as a Research Associate with the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at UCSD. He is currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University, where he studies pedagogical interactions.

Steve StockdaleSteve Stockdale holds a Masters degree in Education Psychology from the University of New Mexico. A former Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics, he taught General Semantics for Mass Communications Practitioners for the Schieffer School of Journalism at TCU. He’s written for general semantics journals, contributed to an academic reader, and self-published an eBook, Here’s Something About General Semantics. He’s currently the IT Director and Canvas administrator for the Grants Community College campus of New Mexico State University.
MOOC information sheet

Here’s Something About General Semantics

Cover TitleHere’s Something About General Semantics:
A Primer for Making Sense of Your World

by Steve Stockdale

Available in eBook format (PDF) for immediate FREE download. ISBN 978-0-9824645-0-2; 290 pages.

Accessible, well-written introduction to GS principles, plus more! Written from 13 years teaching experience. Filled with examples, demonstrations, and explanations; over 50 illustrations.
Includes articles from the GS journal (ETC) and newspaper columns. Thirteen pages of Notes and Sources; Index of 270 names. Links to over 150 online video clips. Appropriate for all learners and teachers, middle grades through university. Learn how language and other symbols influence how you perceive your world,
how you respond to your perceptions, and how you think-and-talk about your responses.

The world in which we live is a world of differences. When we disregard differences, we generalize. When we generalize inappropriately, we stereotype, forming biases and prejudices. Troubles inevitably follow. We need to learn how to more critically differentiate, or discern, between what happens in our lives, how we respond, and how we think-and-talk. This book explains and applies the principles of General Semantics to promote an ongoing awareness of differences that make a difference. The book advocates an informed, open, and tolerant world view, deliberately derived from what we currently know from integrating the sciences, arts, and humanities … without deference to dogmas, traditions, or what passes for culturally-dependent “common sense.”

The book consists of a 4 MB PDF file. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. You cannot edit or copy the file other than for your own personal use. You can print the file or selected pages from the file.

Directions:

  • Right-click the link here to save the file on your computer, or left-click to open the file within your browser and then save to your computer.
  • A convenient hyperlinked version of the Contents for this eBook can be accessed using the Acrobat Reader’s Bookmarks feature, located in the left panel in most Reader configurations.
  • The “Find” search feature within the Acrobat Reader (or equivalent) performs a text-searchable function for the book.

What’s in the Book?

Preface: Something About This Book

  • How I Learned About General Semantics
  • Why GS is “quest-worthy”
  • How GS is consistent with current neuroscience understanding
  • Benefits of GS as reported by university students

Part 1 Introductions to General Semantics

  • Introduction
  • A Structured System of Formulations
  • Some Questions and Answers About GS
  • A Tutorial
  • Two Video Reviews
  • Seven Stories to Illustrate Some GS Principles

Part 2 Explanations and Descriptions

  • Report from an 8-Day Seminar-Workshop
  • My ME Model
  • Report from a Weekend Seminar
  • About “Mindfulness” and GS
  • The Girl and the Match
  • Other Descriptions of General Semantics
  • An Explanation of the Structural Differential
  • 13 Symptoms of Language Misbehaviors
  • A GS Perspective

Part 3 Extensions and Applications

  • Toward an Informed World View
  • Eating Menus
  • Calling Out the Symbol Rulers
  • Words by Other Names
  • Response Side Semantics
  • Semantic Pollution Fouling the Airwaves
  • How Do You Play the Game?
  • But What If …?
  • A Fence Sieve Language
  • Why Make a Federal Case Out of Bad Words?
  • How to Size Your (Thinking) Box
  • The Bridge at Neverwas

Part 4 Some History

  • General Semantics Across the Curriculum
  • Snooping Around the Time-Binding Attic
  • Heinlein and Ellis: Converging Competencies

SUPPLEMENTARIES

  • Full Transcript, “Lay Off of My PERSUADE Shoes”
  • Bib-Vid-liography: Some Resources
  • An Essay on Levels of Abstractions

NOTES AND SOURCES

INDEX OF NAMES

Student Reactions

Following are end-of-semester comments written by students in my General Semantics for Mass Communications Practitioners class, 2005-2008.

General semantics is by far the most relevant class I have taken toward my B.S. in Communication Studies. No other class has provoked the amount of interest and relevancy in the scope of human interaction, both interpersonally and worldly. Understanding abstraction and evaluation has been far more beneficial in comprehending human interaction than studying Maslow or Skinner.


In a way, GS is a way of life. I realize now that there are so many things in general semantics that I can use on a daily basis. The presentations in class also proved that GS can relate to so many things that only a fool could argue that it is not applicable to us.


So far in my college years I have had three classes that have molded the future me. My world religion class influenced the way I perceive religion, my communication graphics class influenced the way I perceive my visual surroundings, my general semantics class influenced me in my understanding all these and realizing there is always more that meets the eye.


I still plan to work in the communications field one day, and what I will take from this discipline into that career is, most basically, a heightened sense of awareness of both the words I choose to use and the words used by those with whom I am assigned to communicate. An awareness that the same word can mean different things to those two parties. An awareness that I can never know all about anything — and neither can anyone else. An awareness that each issue has more than one side and more than one possible solution, that no issue is black and white. An awareness that true objectivity is unattainable and that bias must therefore be examined in all communication.


I wish I had been taught earlier about some of the general semantics principles, such as to recognize that the word is not the thing and that what we see is only a fraction of what is happening “out there” (and that what other people — namely parents, teachers, news anchors, reporters, movie directors, politicians, ministers, anyone who seems to be “all-knowing” or speak about “irrefutable truths” — see and share is only a fraction of all that occurs).


This course has given me a new lens to view life through, and has expanded what, in sociology, is called my cultural capital. Just as I have been able to relate what I learned in sociology to just about every course I have taken since then, I know that I will be able to apply general semantics principles to courses I have yet to take. I feel that I will be less susceptible to misinformation and miscommunication because I often ask myself questions such as “So what?” and challenge myself to look more skeptically at what is presented as fact.


This class was so much different from any class I’ve taken in college thus far. In my opinion, it was a class teaching us HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think.


There is one aspect of GS that discourages me. It seems as though GS could benefit society, or even the world. Now I know that we have only discussed the tip of the iceberg, but wouldn’t we be better off if our schools actively taught this subject? Why is this a secret? Just look at the greatest problem in our world to-day, Iraq. If either side employed some of the approaches of GS, perhaps there would be a possibility of resolution. It would be naive, in my opinion, to think that GS could create a society without problems, but it could help.

TCU, Fall 2008

Teaching

GS for Mass Communications Practitioners

Catalog Description: The application of the principles of General Semantics — how language affects the communication process — to the practice of journalism, advertising, and public relations.

Syllabus

Overview

General Semantics (GS) deals with how we perceive, construct, evaluate and then express  our life experiences through our language-behaviors. This course provides an introduction to the discipline, focusing on practical applications for mass communications professionals.

Course Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the basic terms, formulations, and system of General Semantics.
  • Relate the principles of GS to their chosen professional fields.
  • Apply the methods of GS to their own individual evaluating, behavior, and self-awareness.
  • Critically evaluate various aspects of the mass communications processes and outputs.
  • Practice and demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with their chosen professional fields (journalism, advertising, public relations, etc.).
  • Research and report on topics of interest using the analytical and communication techniques of General Semantics.

eCollege and Email

The resources and capabilities of eCollege will be used for important class communications, announcements, assignments, and posting grades. Critical functions and capabilities of the eCollege class shell will be covered in class, but you are expected to be proficient in using eCollege capabilities. For help with eCollege, please see: www.elearning.tcu.edu/helpdesk/default.asp and http://www.elearning.tcu.edu/resources/.   Email will also be an important communication means for this course.  Your official TCU student email address will be used for all course notifications.

Fall 2008 Schedule

The content for this course is somewhat fluid and may be determined based on current events, student interests, etc. Therefore I reserve the right to adjust the sequencing of the material based on the needs of the class. It is not anticipated that the dates for quizzes, projects, reports, and presentations will change. However, should they become necessary or desirable, changes to the Course Outline, or any other part of this syllabus, will be communicated to the class as soon as possible via eCollege Announcement.

Grades and Assignments

The grading philosophy for this course is that you earn points for completing assignments. Except as noted, the assignments are not “graded” other than to make sure the stated requirements are satisfied. The intent is to reward accomplishment of assigned tasks; in other words, you will determine your grade based on how much you choose to accomplish.

You will participate in two different Groups throughout the semester. You will be expected to participate in and contribute to each Group activity. You may lose points if, in my judgment, you fail to appropriately participate and contribute.

This course is worth a total of 1,000 points:

  • 930 points are required for an A
  • 840 points are required for a B
  • 750 points are required for a C
  • 660 points are required for a D

Assignments are divided into four types:

  1. Individual Assignments (625 points)
  2. Group 1 Assignments (125 points)
  3. Group 2 Assignments (150 points)
  4. Quizzes (100 points)

1)  Individual Assignments (625 points)

Attendance — 232 points. There is no primary textbook for this course. Some supplementary articles will be assigned throughout the course to reinforce material covered in class, but the primary source for course content will be class presentations, lectures, and discussion. Therefore attendance in this course is very important. Each class is worth 8 points. If you attend the class, you earn the points; if you don’t attend the class, you don’t earn the points. If you miss class due to an official university absence or if you have an extenuating circumstance as determined by the instructor, you may complete make-up assignments for no more than two absences.

 Journals — 168 points. You are expected to complete one journal entry after each class (except the final class, 28 total) throughout the semester using the eCollege Journal tool. An  entry for each class is required, regardless of attendance. Your class notes may be included in your journal, but the intent of the assignment is to write about more than just your class notes. Each journal entry should be at least 300 words and provide a summary of what you felt were the most important points covered in that class, or how something from the class applies to something that happens outside of class. This is an opportunity for you to reinforce what you are learning in class and relate class material to your own ‘real world.’ Each of the 28 entries is worth 6 points. Entries for each Tuesday/Thursday class must be completed by the following Monday to earn maximum points. Journal entries will not be scored qualitatively, but entries shorter than 300 words or entries submitted after the Monday they are due will receive only 3 points each.

Online Discussion — 40 points. You have the opportunity to participate in a general online threaded discussion forum in eCollege. A maximum of eight (8) points may be earned for each three-week period in which you materially contribute to the general discussion. In this context, “materially contribute” means that you, during each three-week period, offer at least four comments that begin or propel a threaded discussion by expressing a well-stated opinion, observation, insight, or respectful argument.

Definition Task — 40 points (*a, *m). Two 20-point tasks related to definitions will be assigned. Details will be provided in class.

Current Event Task — 25 points (*f). You will be required to complete one assignment regarding a current event. Details will be provided in class.

Book Report — 75 points (*h). Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course.

Individual Report/Evaluation for Group 2 Project — 45 points (*l). Details will be provided in class.

2)  Group 1 Assignments (125 points)

Time-binding Timeline Task — 25 points (*b). Details will be provided in class.

Process Diagram Task — 25 points (*c). Details will be provided in class.

“100 Greatest Discoveries” Project — 75 points (*d). Each group will be assigned one of the eight subject areas for the Discovery Channel’s series featuring Bill Nye. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video (approximately 45 minutes) and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 75, 68, or 60 points.

3)  Group 2 Assignments (150 points)

Project Plan — 25 points (*g). Details will be provided in class.

Dialogue Presentations (pairs) — 25 points (*i). Details will be provided in class.

Video Series Project — 100 points (*k). Each group will be assigned a major topic that includes a series of videos. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video topic and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 100, 90, or 80 points.

4)  Quizzes (100 points)

Two Quizzes (50 points each, *e, *j) will be given and may consist of multiple choice, true/false, short answer/essay questions, or other activities to be graded individually.

Attendance

  • In-class lectures, presentations, and discussion will constitute the major source of learning opportunities. These learning opportunities simply cannot be made up. Therefore class attendance is extremely important. Attendance will be taken.
  • Late work due to unofficial absences will be accepted within one week of the assigned date and automatically penalized by a 20% reduction in possible points earned.
  • Graded work missed due to an official university absence may be made up with no penalty provided the make-up work is completed within one week of your return. It is your responsibility to notify me immediately of an official absence and to initiate any make-up work.

Reading List

Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course. The report is due October 28 and is worth 75 points. *These titles may have limited availability; see me if the library doesn’t have it.

  • Asim, Jbari —  The N Word
  • Basevich, Andrew — The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
  • Carneiro, Robert L. —  Evolution in Cultural Anthropology *
  • Carneiro, Robert L. —  The Muse of History and the Science of Culture *
  • Chase, Stuart —  The Tyranny of Words *
  • Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly —  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  • Draper, Robert — Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush
  • Fessler, Ann —  The Girls Who Went Away
  • Frank, Thomas —  What’s the Matter with Kansas?
  • Gelb, Michael J. —  How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
  • Gilbert, Daniel —  Stumbling On Happiness
  • Gladwell, Malcolm —  Blink!
  • Gladwell, Malcolm —  The Tipping Point
  • Groopman, Jerome, Dr. —  How Doctors Think
  • Hawkins, Jeff, with Sandra Blakeslee — On Intelligence
  • Hayakawa, S.I. —  Symbol, Status, and Personality *
  • Hayakawa, S.I. — Language in Thought and Action *
  • Jacoby, Susan — The Age of American Unreason
  • Johnson, Wendell —  Your Most Enchanted Listener *
  • Kurtz, Howard — Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War  
  • Lakoff, George —  Don’t Think of an Elephant
  • Lakoff, George —  Metaphors We Live By
  • Langer, Ellen —  Mindfulness
  • Lee, Irving J. —  Language Habits in Human Affairs *
  • Lee, Irving J. —  The Language of Wisdom and Folly *
  • Luntz, Frank — Words That Work
  • Mann, Thomas E. and Ornstein, Norman J. —  The Broken Branch
  • Maslow, Abraham —  Motivation and Personality
  • Maslow, Abraham —  Toward a Psychology of Being
  • Medina, John — brain rules
  • Meredith, Robyn — The Elephant and the Dragon
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey —  Going Nucular
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey —  Talking Right
  • Postman, Neil — Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Robinson, James Harvey —  The Mind in the Making: The Relation of Intelligence to Social Reform *
  • Saunders, George—  The Braindead Megaphone
  • Selver, Charlotte and Brooks, Charles V.W. —  reclaiming vitality and presence *
  • Weinberg, Harry L. —  Levels of Knowing and Existence *
  • Whorf, Benjamin Lee —  Language, Thought, and Reality *

Quiz 1:

Referring to the assigned readings:

  1. About General Semantics
  2. Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics
  3. Language Matters
  4. Principles and Benefits of General Semantics
  5. Overviews by Wendell Johnson, Francis P. Chisholm, Dr. Russell Meyers
  6. An Explanation of the Structural Differential
  7. Interview with Charlotte Read on Sensory Awareness
  8. 17-screen Tutorial on my website

1. Explain or describe something significant that you took away from Reading e).

2. In Reading f) I described a hypothetical situation in which a driver was “cut off” by another driver. What’s the point of that story?

3. In Reading g), Charlotte Read talks about a cartoon (which is shown in the article) and a Zen story. Each illustrates a different principle. Give a short explanation of either the cartoon or the Zen story and the principle it illustrates.

4. From Reading f), what does “Differential” refer to; what is being differentiated?

5. Briefly explain two principles or examples you found significant from Reading h).

Quiz 2:

1.  How do you reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements:

“I know I’m wasting half of my ad dollars. I just don’t know which half.”

“Good marketing research works.”

2.  Based on what you saw of the consultant Frank Luntz, would you say that his work has primarily “clarified” or “obfuscated” the issues he has been hired to advocate? Support your answer using a GS principle(s) or example(s).

3.     From what you’ve learned this semester about GS and what you’ve observed in “The Persuaders,” which ONE of the following groups do you think would most benefit from applying GS in their own  domains? Give at least one example from the documentary that supports your answer.

Advertisers                  Consultants                 Consumers                  Politicians                    Filmmakers

4.  John Sparks demonstrated a principle of GS. Describe or explain his demonstration.

5.  Korzybski warned that “who rules the symbols, rules us.” From what you just saw in the documentary, would you say this warning was appropriate? Why or why not?

6.  John Sparks admitted to feeling  defensive about something; what was it?

7.  What did Olive Talley say about objectivity as it relates to journalists?

8.   Olive Talley named two attributes in response to my question about what kind of person she would be looking for if she had budget to hire someone right out of college. Name one of the two attributes.

9.  Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, the French market research guru, said, “The reptilian always wins.” What was he talking about and how does it relate to what we’ve talked about in class?

10.  What is one of the reasons why people join cults, according to consultant Douglas Adkin?

11.  Advertising CEO Kevin Roberts said his objective was “loyalty beyond reason.” What does this mean to you as a consumer?

12.  Who or what initiated the story line for the “Absolut Hunk” episode of “Sex and the City”?

13.  What problem does the Acxiom company in Little Rock, AR, promise to solve?

14.   According to one of the people in the documentary, what threat does the micro-segmenting of demographic groups pose to our democracy?

Videos

*Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.*

This video provides a review of class sessions 1-8 (4:11):

This video provides a review of class sessions 9-14 (4:30):

GS Videos: Topical Excerpts

These videos were created to illustrate specific topics covered in class. *Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.*

The Power (?) of Words (6:10)

Winner or Loser? (3:30)

Language, Symbols, and Meanings (10:30)

Perspectives about Race (2:57)

The Tyranny of Categories (5:34)

Perspectives from Herbie Hancock’s “Possibilities” (10:41)

Prejudice & Obscenity (13:44)

GS Videos: Class Reviews

*Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.*

Fall 2008 Semester, Review of Classes 1-8 (4:11)

Fall 2008 Semester, Review of Classes 9-14 (4:30)

Spring 2008 Semester Review of over 70 video clips shown in class (31:00)

GS Class Presentations

This page includes seven different topics from my GS for Mass Communications Practitioners course at TCU in Fort Worth, TX, from 2005-2008:

  • Fundamental Principles of General Semantics
  • Basic Understandings
  • Does Perception = Reality?
  • PR or Propaganda?
  • Genres and Categories
  • Preparation for the F Word Film
  • Last Class Review

Fundamental Principles

Basic Understandings

Does Perception = Reality?

PR or Propaganda?

Genres and Categories

Preparation for the F Word Film

Last Class Review

TCU, Spring 2008

Teaching

GS for Mass Communications Practitioners

Catalog Description: The application of the principles of General Semantics — how language affects the communication process — to the practice of journalism, advertising, and public relations.

Syllabus

Overview

General Semantics (GS) deals with how we perceive, construct, evaluate and then express our life experiences through our language-behaviors. This course provides an introduction to the discipline, focusing on practical applications for mass communications professionals.

Course Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the basic terms, formulations, and system of General Semantics.
  • Relate the principles of GS to their chosen professional fields.
  • Apply the methods of GS to their own individual evaluating, behavior, and self-awareness.
  • Critically evaluate various aspects of the mass communications processes and outputs.
  • Practice and demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with their chosen professional fields (journalism, advertising, public relations, etc.).
  • Research and report on topics of interest using the analytical and communication techniques of General Semantics.

eCollege and Email

The resources and capabilities of eCollege will be used for important class communications, announcements, assignments, and posting grades. Critical functions and capabilities of the eCollege class shell will be covered in class, but you are expected to be proficient in using eCollege capabilities. For help with eCollege, please see: www.elearning.tcu.edu/helpdesk/default.asp and http://www.elearning.tcu.edu/resources/. Email will also be an important communication means for this course. Your official TCU student email address will be used for all course notifications.

Fall 2008 Schedule

The content for this course is somewhat fluid and may be determined based on current events, student interests, etc. Therefore I reserve the right to adjust the sequencing of the material based on the needs of the class. It is not anticipated that the dates for quizzes, projects, reports, and presentations will change. However, should they become necessary or desirable, changes to the Course Outline, or any other part of this syllabus, will be communicated to the class as soon as possible via eCollege Announcement.

Grades and Assignments

The grading philosophy for this course is that you earn points for completing assignments. Except as noted, the assignments are not “graded” other than to make sure the stated requirements are satisfied. The intent is to reward accomplishment of assigned tasks; in other words, you will determine your grade based on how much you choose to accomplish.

You will participate in two different Groups throughout the semester. You will be expected to participate in and contribute to each Group activity. You may lose points if, in my judgment, you fail to appropriately participate and contribute.

This course is worth a total of 1,000 points:

  • 930 points are required for an A
  • 840 points are required for a B
  • 750 points are required for a C
  • 660 points are required for a D

Assignments are divided into four types:

  1. Individual Assignments (625 points)
  2. Group 1 Assignments (125 points)
  3. Group 2 Assignments (150 points)
  4. Quizzes (100 points)

1) Individual Assignments (625 points)

Attendance — 232 points. There is no primary textbook for this course. Some supplementary articles will be assigned throughout the course to reinforce material covered in class, but the primary source for course content will be class presentations, lectures, and discussion. Therefore attendance in this course is very important. Each class is worth 8 points. If you attend the class, you earn the points; if you don’t attend the class, you don’t earn the points. If you miss class due to an official university absence or if you have an extenuating circumstance as determined by the instructor, you may complete make-up assignments for no more than two absences.

Journals — 168 points. You are expected to complete one journal entry after each class (except the final class, 28 total) throughout the semester using the eCollege Journal tool. An entry for each class is required, regardless of attendance. Your class notes may be included in your journal, but the intent of the assignment is to write about more than just your class notes. Each journal entry should be at least 300 words and provide a summary of what you felt were the most important points covered in that class, or how something from the class applies to something that happens outside of class. This is an opportunity for you to reinforce what you are learning in class and relate class material to your own ‘real world.’ Each of the 28 entries is worth 6 points. Entries for each Tuesday/Thursday class must be completed by the following Monday to earn maximum points. Journal entries will not be scored qualitatively, but entries shorter than 300 words or entries submitted after the Monday they are due will receive only 3 points each.

Online Discussion — 40 points. You have the opportunity to participate in a general online threaded discussion forum in eCollege. A maximum of eight (8) points may be earned for each three-week period in which you materially contribute to the general discussion. In this context, “materially contribute” means that you, during each three-week period, offer at least four comments that begin or propel a threaded discussion by expressing a well-stated opinion, observation, insight, or respectful argument.

Definition Task — 40 points (*a, *m). Two 20-point tasks related to definitions will be assigned. Details will be provided in class.

Current Event Task — 25 points (*f). You will be required to complete one assignment regarding a current event. Details will be provided in class.

Book Report — 75 points (*h). Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course.

Individual Report/Evaluation for Group 2 Project — 45 points (*l). Details will be provided in class.

2) Group 1 Assignments (125 points)

Time-binding Timeline Task — 25 points (*b). Details will be provided in class.

Process Diagram Task — 25 points (*c). Details will be provided in class.

“100 Greatest Discoveries” Project — 75 points (*d). Each group will be assigned one of the eight subject areas for the Discovery Channel’s series featuring Bill Nye. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video (approximately 45 minutes) and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 75, 68, or 60 points.

3) Group 2 Assignments (150 points)

Project Plan — 25 points (*g). Details will be provided in class.

Dialogue Presentations (pairs) — 25 points (*i). Details will be provided in class.

Video Series Project — 100 points (*k). Each group will be assigned a major topic that includes a series of videos. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video topic and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 100, 90, or 80 points.

4) Quizzes (100 points)

Two Quizzes (50 points each, *e, *j) will be given and may consist of multiple choice, true/false, short answer/essay questions, or other activities to be graded individually.

Attendance

  • In-class lectures, presentations, and discussion will constitute the major source of learning opportunities. These learning opportunities simply cannot be made up. Therefore class attendance is extremely important. Attendance will be taken.
  • Late work due to unofficial absences will be accepted within one week of the assigned date and automatically penalized by a 20% reduction in possible points earned.
  • Graded work missed due to an official university absence may be made up with no penalty provided the make-up work is completed within one week of your return. It is your responsibility to notify me immediately of an official absence and to initiate any make-up work.

Quiz 1, 75 points

Match each statement to the GS term that best fits. You may feel that some of the terms apply to more than one statement. But you are encouraged to read over all the terms and matches in order to select the most appropriate term for each statement. (1 points each, 10 points total)

  1. “I hit the gas as soon as the light turned green. I never checked the cross traffic.”
  2. “He said he hated Pittsburgh. But he was only there for a day. He couldn’t have seen or experienced very much, so his assessment was based on limited observations.”
  3. “You either love me or you don’t. There’s no in between.”
  4. “I liked the movie until that guy fell through the ice and drowned in that icy water. I got so chilled I had to go outside to warm up.”
  5. “I just know he’s going to be late since he’s never been here before.”
  6. “I couldn’t believe she sent me that rude email. I’m not going to reply to it until tomorrow … maybe I’ll feel differently then.”
  7. “He used to be a radical socialist in college, but now he’s married with kids and a Bush conservative.”
  8. “Just because he’s Muslim doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make a good coach.”
  9. “I believe the prices at Tom Thumb are higher than at Albertson’s. I’m going to come up with a list of the items I usually buy and do a price check at each store to see if I’m right.”
  10. “I’m never going back there. There was absolutely nothing I liked about any part of that city.
  1. ____ inference
  2. ____ scientific attitude
  3. ____ delayed reaction
  4. ____ dating
  5. ____ indexing
  6. ____ identification
  7. ____ two-valued orientation
  8. ____ consciousness of abstracting
  9. ____ signal reaction
  10. ____ absolutism

MULTIPLE CHOICE (2 points each, 20 points total):

11.  Which is the most appropriate statement about general semantics?

  1. it’s just about the study of words
  2. it’s about choosing the right words to describe the objective world of reality
  3. it’s about evaluating the assumptions underlying language and symbols
  4. all of the above

12. Which is the most appropriate statement about the world ‘out there’?

  1. with more precise language we can accurately describe the objective world
  2. we can talk about general experiences that everybody should feel
  3. we can only talk about the world-to-me or the world-to-you
  4. we must talk objectively because there is only one world ‘out there’

13. What is significant about a statement such as “The rose is red”?

  1. it implies that red exists as a property in the rose
  2. it projects the reactions of the observer’s nervous system into the world ‘out there’
  3. it suggests that everybody should see the rose as the same color
  4. all of the above

14. Which of the following statements does not apply to a statement of fact?

  1. only a limited number of factual statements can be made
  2. a statement of fact can only be made after an observation or experience
  3. a statement of fact is open to interpretation and can be endlessly argued
  4. a statement of fact represents a high degree of probability, is close to certainty

15. Which of the following statements about assumptions and inferences is most correct?

  1. we must not make assumptions and inferences
  2. we must make assumptions and inferences
  3. they can only be made before an observation or experience
  4. there is a big difference between an assumption and an inference

16. An alternative to using polarizing (either-or, right-wrong, good-bad) language is:

  1. to eliminate all forms of the verb “to be”
  2. to take care to avoid making assumptions
  3. to talk in terms of degrees, with possibilities in between the extremes
  4. avoid subject-predicate constructions

17. Exactly, perfectly, and without a doubt are examples of:

  1. low-level abstractions
  2. absolutistic terms
  3. symbol reactions
  4. multiordinal terms

18. Which activity is part of  what we refer to as “abstracting” in general semantics?

  1. to select
  2. to construct
  3. to leave out
  4. all of the above

19. According to Edward Sapir, which statement about language is correct?

  1. the objective world of reality creates the language we use
  2. a single universal language is the only hope for avoiding future conflicts
  3. the language we grow up with predisposes us to certain choices of interpretation
  4. there is a direct correlation between the size of vocabulary and cultural progress

20. Which of the following statements is most accurate?

  1. words change faster than the world changes
  2. the world changes faster than words change
  3. the survival of a civilization depends upon its people being able to avoid change
  4. our senses are unlimited

The Structural Differential

Give a short explanation or description of the four components of the abstracting process noted below. (1 points each, 5 points total)

Structural Differential Diagram

Final Exam

 

Video

This video provides a review of the Spring 2008 semester, compiling over 70 different clips from videos shown during class to reinforce GS principles and formulations. Informative, educational, and entertaining.  *Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.* (31:00)

Major sources of the clips used include:

      • “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
      • “The Colbert Report”
      • PBS: “Eyes on the Prize”
      • “The N Word: Divided We Stand”
      • “F**k: A Documentary”
      • PBS Frontline: “The Persuaders”
      • Independent Lens: “The Paper”
      • “Toxic Sludge is Good for You”
      • “The Brain: Evolution and Perception”
      • Blue Man Group: “Inside the Tube”
      • Herbie Hancock’s “Possibilities”